Thursday, 28 May 2015

Will football force me to change the way I see life?

Happy Birthday Dad!
We always light a candle for you before kick off!
(thanks as ever to

Loathe to admit it but recently I’ve been enduring a period of emotional turmoil over matters of football. Well aware of how silly it sounds for a grown man to declare existential angst concerning his footie team, my confusion continues.

Usually my excuse for watching and following Chelsea FC is that the Beautiful Game provides a trivial and wonderful distraction from the mighty and wearying issues of everyday life. For a few hours each week my mind can switch off and stare at super-rich young men kicking a ball around a field.

For many of us danglers, football and other sport allows a rare and precious chance to explore and explode into our emotional reserves, in a way that’s just not deemed acceptable in a supermarket.

During a game men can roar, scream, cheer and cry. We can show mean-spirited anger and pure joy, without raising a critical eyebrow from strangers.

Trouble is, where in the past the good ship Adley has enjoyed soccer sanctuary in the familiar old harbour of ‘Benign Distraction’, this season my allegiance to the club I support has raised a deep and most unwelcome question:

What kind of man am I?

Regular colyoomistas know well by now that this is not the first time I’ve wondered at my own nature. I’ve not managed to live for over half a century without trying to improve myself. 

Thankfully I’m not so fantastically shallow that football is the first subject to arouse such doubts. But it is the first time that my favourite sporting distraction has become a source of profound consternation.

Do I still love watching football? 
Do I still and will I always be a Chelsea fan? 

Do I still find it odd that I need and enjoy such a simplistically tribal element in my life? 


Clear, simple and unequivocal standpoints all. So what’s the problem? After all, my team have won the Premier League. Even better, Mr. Mourinho was considerate enough to sort out the title a few weeks back.

If all has gone according to plan, I’ll be just back from a Balearic island when you read this, as the Snapper and I return from our first proper holiday for three years. 

When planning the trip months ago, a childish, slightly sad part of my brain was aware that the season would not yet be over, and that we might need to find a bar that showed Sky Sports.

Yet that wasn't necessary, as Chelsea became Premiership Champions four weeks ago.

Texts were flying into my living room from across the continents: 
 “Championes! Championes! Olé! Olé! Olé!”

Despite having a Liverpool supporter on my right and a Manchester City fan on my left, I managed to feel excited, delighted and relieved when that final whistle blew and we knew.

But was I as thrilled as I should have been? Was I leaping up and down in exuberant delight, with a heart pumping with Blue pride?

I wasn’t.

José Mourinho is a genius, of that there is no doubt. Such a word should be applied sparingly, lest it become diminished, yet so vast is the world of football, in terms of finance and population, someone who consistently succeeds at impressive levels deserves an accolade of the highest order.

If you neither know nor care anything about football, allow yourself to become lost in numbers. After winning 18 major trophies in 4 countries in 13 years, his teams have suffered a collective total of 5 defeats in 232 home games. 

There has never been a manager like him. When he described himself as “a special one” he wasn’t kidding.

All sporting heroes are driven by a desire to win, yet despite the look on Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger’s face, Mourinho hates to lose even more than other managers.

Irritating, arrogant and devilishly handsome, even as he enters his silver fox years, Mourinho is in a class of his own: the minuscule details of preparation for every game; the building of a group mentality that makes his players willing to die for him; the tactical agility which allows him to make inspired substitutions that change the game instantly, grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat.

On so many levels he’s the perfect manager: therein lies my problem: stamped through my core like a stick of Brighton rock are the words ‘Have A Go!’ My life (as all lives should be) has been a unique adventure, with great victories and tragic losses, but to me, regret is as alien as inertia. 

I’ll always leave a footprint in the sand.

Experience has taught me to be pragmatic on occasion, but while there’s wisdom in being careful, risk is an essential ingredient of my life. You wouldn’t do very well as a scribbler if you were ill-prepared to deal with rejection. Enjoy the successes as they come, take defeat on the chin and move on. 

That’s my way.

Mourinho doesn’t do risk. He exists to win at all costs. For the first half of the season we had all our players fit. Chelsea danced to victory after victory in balletic and enthralling fashion. Then, as the squad tired and succumbed to injury, our style became more defensive, until even John Terry, the Chelsea captain, talked of:

“... grinding out wins, week after week...”

Once Chelsea were notoriously unpredictable and occasionally exhilarating. Mourinho has now turned us into a slick outfit that’s a safe bet. When his flair players are fit, Mourinho is more than happy for his teams to play wonderful football. When less talent is available, he’ll squeeze the best out of what he has. 

Nobody does it better.

Mourinho worships at the altar of victory. If football is to be a metaphor for life, I prefer to have a go and enjoy the game.

©Charlie Adley

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